Report on AAUP National Meeting June 2018

This report by NCAAUP Vice-President Michael Behrent encapsulates the pressing concerns currently facing AAUP.  Highly recommended reading!

A Report on AAUP’s 104th Meeting

The following is a brief report on AAUP’s most recent national meeting, which I attended this past weekend. The 104th annual meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) met June 14-17 in Washington DC. The event consisted of several overlapping meetings: a gathering of the collective bargaining units, a conference on higher education, and the association’s official business meeting. I attended the latter two.

The theme of AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum’s remarks to the association was “endangered species”: in the current environment, the principles AAUP cares about—academic freedom, shared governance, and tenure itself—face a serious risk of extinction. In many ways, this was the conference’s leitmotif.

The panels I attended at the Friday higher education conference called attention to some of the ways in which privatization and corporatization are fast transforming our profession and threatening its current form. Representatives from the Indiana AAUP conference talked about the recent acquisition by Purdue, one of Indiana’s major public universities, of Kaplan University Online, a for-profit university with a history of predatory practices. The new “university”—now dubbed “Purdue Global”—was acquired in an underhanded manner, with virtually no faculty involvement. When AAUP members tried to speak out against the acquisition by delivering comments to the appropriate accrediting body, they were issued a “cease and desist” letter. Faculty do not know who is teaching at “Purdue Global” or what kinds of courses it is offering, even though its classes now count towards university credit.

I also heard about the tremendous work being doing by UnKoch My Campus, an organization formed by former students at George Mason University and Florida State University. After much stonewalling from George Mason’s administration, the organization was able to obtain some of the donor agreements regulating the privately-funded institutes that have been set up on their campus. They have also sued George Mason university and its fundraising operations for lack of transparency.

The intellectual and political background to the situation that George Mason exemplifies were examined by the plenary session speaker, historian Nancy Maclean of Duke University, the author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. Recapping her book’s main arguments, Maclean explained how, beginning in the 1970s, University of Virginia economist James M. Buchanan allied with wealthy industrialist Charles Koch to formulate an ideology that equates the economy and property rights with “freedom” and government with “oppression.” On this foundation, they developed a covert plan to dismantle tax-funded public institutions and scale back many government regulations, while restricting democratic mechanisms that stood in the way of their efforts. According to Maclean, the dismantling of public schools and universities and the infiltration of institutions of higher learning by privately funded centers are crucial elements of this larger project, which is intended to culminate with a constitutional convention that many GOP-controlled legislatures have already authorized. Interestingly, several members of the Charles Koch Foundation and the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies were in attendance at the AAUP meeting.

Building on the work that AAUP has done this past year in North Carolina, notably our mobilization against the state’s “campus free speech” law, I presented a talk on the Goldwater Institute model bill that was the basis of this legislation. A brief interview I did for AAUP’s Facebook page is available here (scroll down a bit). If you have not done so already, I encourage you to read the report I cowrote with AAUP’s Government Relations Committee on the “campus free speech” movement.

The business meeting, which was held on Saturday, is the forum in which much of AAUP’s most important work gets done. One of its key tasks is to decide whether to place university administrations on the AAUP censure list. Administrations are placed on this list when they are found, after an investigation, to be in serious violation of academic freedom and shared governance, as defined in AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. At this year’s meeting, one institution was considered for censure: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Hank Reichman, on behalf of AAUP’s Committee A for Academic Freedom and Tenure, presented the recommendation. In August of last year, a UNL graduate student and lecturer, Courtney Lawton, was involved in an altercation with an undergraduate from the conservative campus organization Turning Point USA. Although the university changed its story several times, Lawton was ultimately removed from teaching responsibilities and became the target of political attacks by the Nebraska legislature. AAUP decided to recommend UNL’s administration for censure after Committee A sent an investigative team to Lincoln. The full report can be read here. AAUP voted unanimously to place the University of Nebraska-Lincoln administration on the censure list. In other business, Stillman College was removed from the list, and the University of Iowa had a sanction relating to shared governance practices lifted.

An issue that currently has AAUP greatly preoccupied is the Janus vs. AFSCME case, which the Supreme Court will most likely decide in upcoming weeks. This case challenges the right of unions to charge fees of non-union members who belong to collective bargaining units and benefit from collective bargaining agreements—i.e., so-called “fair-share” or “union security” agreements. Given the court’s conservative majority, it seems likely that it will decide in favor of Janus—in other words, that it will declare fair-share agreements to be in violation of the First Amendment. AAUP opposes this position in principle (earlier this year, it filed an amicus brief defending fair-share agreements). If the conservative majority prevails, this decision will also result in significant loss of revenue for the association: currently, about 42,000 of AAUP’s 52,000 members nationally belong to collective bargaining chapters (as opposed to advocacy chapters). The association is already slowing down some spending to be able to absorb the anticipated financial hit.

All these concerns—privatization, political attacks, and the assault on labor rights—explain why AAUP president Fichtenbaum warned that academic freedom and shared governance are “endangered species.” But he ended with a positive—though sobering—message: we need to learn to act collectively. Just because many AAUP chapters are not collective bargaining units does not mean they cannot be “unions.” Unions, he reminded the membership, existed long before collective bargaining rights. If we do not act collectively to defend our rights and our profession, no one else will.

Michael C. Behrent

Acting AAUP chapter president, Appalachian State University

Vice President, NC Conference of the AAUP

Advertisements

Grant Opportunities for Faculty Under Attack

Grant money is now available through National AAUP when individual faculty need financial support when seeking legal advice.

Below is a message from Henry Reichman, Chair of AAUP.

Faculty, even those with tenure, are feeling vulnerable these days. Increasingly under attack—from legislators who want to abolish tenure or withhold funding for controversial courses, from overzealous governing boards, and even from students who might accuse them of radicalism on the Professor Watchlist website—faculty sometimes feel compelled to self-censor or to change the way they teach. The time is now to stand up for academic freedom and the importance of higher education in a free and democratic society.

Through our grant programs, the AAUP Foundation supports individual faculty members who need legal or financial assistance after being terminated without due process. Foundation grants also support faculty engagement in shared governance, academic conferences, and other professional opportunities and provide critical funding for the AAUP’s work on academic freedom and faculty governance, costs that membership dues alone cannot cover.

Learn about the AAUP Foundation’s grant funds and guidelines.

A recent Academic Freedom Fund grant provided replacement income for part-time instructor of philosophy Nathanial Bork, who was summarily dismissed by the Community College of Aurora after saying he would send a report to the college’s accreditor criticizing its new Gateway to Success curriculum. Mr. Bork claimed that new requirements to lower standards in “gatekeeper” courses necessary for transferring to four-year institutions would inadequately prepare students for college-level work. His dismissal was the subject of an investigation by the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which receives funding from the AAUP Foundation for investigations and reports. Delegates at the 2017 AAUP Annual Meeting will vote on whether or not to add the Community College of Aurora to the AAUP’s list of censured institutions.

Apply for the next round of AAUP Foundation grants by June 30.

The AAUP Foundation Legal Defense Fund supports faculty members in cases at the trial and appellate levels that implicate important legal rights, involve legal issues of national significance in higher education, and affect the careers of academics. Grant recipient Robin Meade—dismissed by Moraine Valley Community College after sending a letter criticizing the college’s treatment of adjunct faculty—won a settlement that affirmed the free speech rights of contingent faculty. And a New York Supreme Court ruling allowed grant recipients Marie Monaco and Herbert Samuels to continue their case challenging New York University Medical School’s salary reduction policy, used to slash their salaries after their net grant income declined due to loss of research data in Superstorm Sandy. Such legal victories make a difference for the academic profession as well as for individual faculty.

The AAUP Foundation also supports educational programs that advance the cause of academic freedom. We recently awarded a grant to Scholars at Risk—an international network that protects scholars and promotes academic freedom—for its Scholar Transition Program, which will provide training for higher education professionals who are the victims of external political upheaval. Academic freedom must not be subject to the whims of those in power—whether abroad or in this country.

Best regards,
Henry Reichman,
Chair, AAUP Foundation

Reclaiming Higher Education for All North Carolinians: A Vision Statement of the NC AAUP

The full statement includes explanations of each point in the vision and may be viewed and downloaded here:

aaup-collective-vision-across-nc-final

The preamble and outline of the statement follow:

At a time when the basic principles governing higher education throughout the country and in our state are being challenged, we, as professors in North Carolina universities, feel compelled to reaffirm our core beliefs. We speak not merely as private individuals and members of a profession, but as guardians of the public trust, whose responsibility it is, whether we teach at public or private institutions, to educate our citizens and promote knowledge. We hold the following educational principles to be self-evident and integral to the wellbeing and dignity of all North Carolinians:

Outline of our vision:

  1. Higher education is a human right that must be available to all NC citizens.
  2. State funding for the core academic mission of public higher education must be restored and must prioritize academics.
  3. The principle of shared governance is essential to preserving higher education’s core mission and values.
  4. A diverse range of course offerings and academic programs must be offered at each UNCG campus.
  5. Research must be a system-wide priority.
  6. Faculty must earn a living wage.
  7. Academic freedom remains essential to higher education’s mission.

 

Film Screening of ‘Starving the Beast’

starving-the-beast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Highly Acclaimed Film on Threats to Public Higher Education Screened at UNCG

Why is college tuition increasing at alarming rates, causing crushing educational debts for many North Carolina students? Why are college courses increasingly taught by part-time faculty? What are the troubling consequences of our state legislature increasingly reducing the funding of higher education for the public good?

In Starving the Beast, Director Steve Mims lays out with calm, terrifying clarity how wealthy individuals like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers are leading a concerted effort to transform taxpayer-funded institutes of learning and research into profit-making ventures in which students are passive consumers and universities are service providers.

University faculty, students, and staff along with the citizens of the Triad must see this critically important and timely documentary that will be shown at UNCG in the Elliott University Center Auditorium on Monday, January 30, 2017, at 6 pm.

Following the film, Gene Nichol, who is the Boyd Tinsley distinguished professor of law at UNC-Chapel Hill and the principal faculty member from the UNC system interviewed in the movie, will lead a discussion.

This film screening is free; however, donations will be welcomed at the door.

This event is co-sponsored by the UNCG Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), UNCG Faculty Senate, UNCG Graduate Student Association, and UNCG Humanities Network & Consortium.

Contact:
Susan Dennison
President, UNCG AAUP Chapter
stdennis@uncg.edu

###

UNCG Recommendations for NC State AAUP Statement Essential Elements for Future Higher Education in North Carolina

UNCG Recommendations for NC State AAUP Statement

A group of our members met last week and had a lengthy discussion on what should be part of NC higher education in the future.  The group agreed that it would be important to prepare two documents.  One would be a more formal document that delineates in detail what is essential for higher education to carry out its pubic mission.  The second document should be a shorter version of the first one that is intend to be a press release and written so the general public will quickly understand what we are promoting and supporting for NC higher education as an organization.  You may also want to create YouTube that provides this same message in a different format.


Format of the Longer Official Statement

We suggest that this document have essentially three sections.  The first part would introduce AAUP and its primary contributions to higher education particularly in regard to shared governance and academic freedom.  In this same introduction it would be helpful to indicate the rationale for this official statement from NC AAUP on what should be part of higher education in this state in the future.

The second or middle section of this report should list in concise but clear terms what essentially ensures that higher education is accomplishing its primary public mission.

The last section or closing should summarize what is contained in this statement and indicate what we intend to do with it in terms of distribution and elicitation of support for it from other stakeholders involved in higher education.

 

Essentials elements to include in the middle section of the document

  • Ensure that all citizens, without discrimination, have equitable access to college education
  • Make tuition affordable, even free if possible, and place limits on student fees which are currently driving up total cost to attend NC colleges
  • Support, reinstate, and expand tenure track faculty positions (provide rationale for quality of education, continuity of academic programs and advising/working with students, conducting research and contributing to our knowledge base, and securing grants to further fund cutting edge research)
  • Standardize contingent/adjunct/clinical faculty positions in terms of salary, job security, and establishment of ranks for advancement.
  • Support HBCUs while providing assistance when needed in order to maintain essential academic standards
  • Recognize the importance of higher education institutions generating new knowledge not just focusing on economic growth
  • Support and endorse the preparation/education of students for future careers not just the current job market
  • Support and endorse the importance of universities teaching students critical thinking skills so they are better prepared for any career and better prepared as citizens of this state/country.
  • Endorse and support the importance of the humanities at our universities and provide rationale
  • Oppose NC legislature over-reaching involvement in higher education and clarify why this needs to stop and why it is important for the public good that universities retain a level of independence
  • Endorse and support shared governance at all NC universities so faculty have an integral role in all decisions impacting the curriculum and teaching
  • Endorse and support academic freedom for faculty and students and provide rationale

You may find it helpful to quote from AAUP some points regarding academic freedom and shared governance.

2016 Year Overview and Future Plans

UNCG AAUP Chapter

Plan for 2016/2017

 

  • August 16, 2016:        Sponsored booth at new faculty resource fair

 

  • September 14, 2016:        Co-sponsored reception for new faculty at Provost Convocation

 

  • September 22, 2016:       Business meeting of AAUP Executive Committee

 

  • October 13, 2016:           Marketing support for Agents of Change Film

 

  • October 15, 2016:           Attendance at & support of NC State AAUP Annual Conference at Meredith College with Samuel Dunietz presentation:  Mobilizing for NC Higher Education

 

  • November 10, 2016:       Meeting of all UNCG AAUP members to contribute to NC State AAUP Chapter’s official statement on what is essential for the future of higher education in NC

 

  • January 16, 2017:           Happy/Welcome back to Spring Semester Piano Concert with Andrew Willis followed by a reception

 

  • January 30, 2017:           Co-sponsoring documentary Starving the Beast with UNCG Faculty Senate, UNCG Graduate Student Organization, & UNCG Humanities Network and Consortium.

 

  • February 15, 2017:         Possible panel on How to Preserve Shared Governance at UNCG held during part of the Faculty Senate sponsored Faculty Forum (could also be held during the March 22nd Faculty Forum)

 

  • End of Year:                   Chapter may sponsor or co-sponsor an end of the year reception for all UNCG faculty-date TBA